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How to Write 2,500 Words Before Breakfast Every Day

"Three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write"

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How to Write 2,500 Words Before Breakfast Every Day

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)

One of England's most popular novelists in the 19th century, Anthony Trollope worked for more than 30 years as a civil servant and is widely considered "a literary craftsman of the middle class." Henry James said of Trollope that "his great, his inestimable merit was a complete appreciation of the usual."

In this passage from his Autobiography (1883), Trollope explains how his strict writing habits allowed him to write 47 novels, along with numerous plays, travel books, biographies, essays, and short stories.

How to Write 2,500 Words Before Breakfast Every Day

from An Autobiography, by Anthony Trollope

It was my practice to be at my table every morning at 5.30 A.M.; and it was also my practice to allow myself no mercy. An old groom, whose business it was to call me, and to whom I paid £5 a year extra for the duty, allowed himself no mercy. During all those years at Waltham Cross he was never once late with the coffee which it was his duty to bring me. I do not know that I ought not to feel that I owe more to him than to any one else for the success I have had. By beginning at that hour I could complete my literary work before I dressed for breakfast.

All those I think who have lived as literary men--working daily as literary labourers--will agree with me that three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write. But then he should so have trained himself that he shall be able to work continuously during those three hours--so have tutored his mind that it shall not be necessary for him to sit nibbling his pen, and gazing at the wall before him, till he shall have found the words with which he wants to express his ideas. It had at this time become my custom--and it still is my custom, though of late I have become a little lenient to myself--to write with my watch before me, and to require from myself 250 words every quarter of an hour. I have found that the 250 words have been forthcoming as regularly as my watch went. But my three hours were not devoted entirely to writing. I always began my task by reading the work of the day before, an operation which would take me half an hour, and which consisted chiefly in weighing with my ear the sound of the words and phrases. I would strongly recommend this practice to all tyros in writing. That their work should be read after it has been written is a matter of course--that it should be read twice at least before it goes to the printers, I take to be a matter of course. But by reading what he has last written, just before he recommences his task, the writer will catch the tone and spirit of what he is then saying, and will avoid the fault of seeming to be unlike himself. This division of time allowed me to produce over ten pages of an ordinary novel volume a day, and if kept up through ten months, would have given as its results three novels of three volumes each in the year . . ..

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